Novartis Nabs Merck Veteran to Helm BioMedical Institutes



Merck veteran Fiona H. Marshall has been tapped as president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). She takes over from Jay Bradner, who will leave the company effective Oct. 31. 

The Swiss pharma giant continues to undergo a strategic restructuring that will result in the loss of thousands of jobs. That restructuring has led to the loss of several top executives at Novartis. This includes Chief Medical Officer John Tsai, who was replaced by Shreeram Aradhye, as well as Robert Weltevreden, president of customer & technology solutions and Susanne Schaffert, head of Novartis Oncology. Bradner will "pursue a next chapter of scientific contribution and leadership outside of Novartis," the company announced. 

Marshall currently serves as senior vice president and global head of discovery sciences, preclinical development and translational medicine at Merck. She will assume her role on Nov. 1. Marshall said she is excited to join Novartis and guide the discovery teams at NIBR, who are known for their collaborative spirit and the use of cutting-edge technologies.

"I look forward to working with them, colleagues across Novartis and our partners across the biopharma ecosystem to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into breakthrough medicines that address critical areas of unmet need for patients," she said in a statement.

Marshall joined Merck in 2018. Before that, she was a founder and chief scientific officer of U.K.-based Heptares Therapeutics, which Japan-based Sosei acquired for $400 million. She continued to serve as CSO at Sosei following the acquisition. Before Heptares, Marshall was director of molecular pharmacology at Millennium Pharmaceuticals. She also spent ten years at GlaxoSmithKline, holding leadership roles in molecular pharmacology and neuroscience. 

Bradner, who has guided NIBR for the past seven years, said leading the Institutes since 2015 has been a privilege. He expressed confidence in Marshall's ability to guide the ongoing research at NIBR. On his LinkedIn page, Bradner pointed to the success of NIBR. He saw more than 75 Investigational New Drug Applications and 90 positive proof-of-concept studies during his tenure.

Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan said Bradner has agreed to assist with Marshall's onboarding to ensure a smooth transition. Narasimhan touted Marshall's scientific expertise and leadership abilities. 

Novartis’ restructuring, dubbed Transforming for Growth, was aimed at uniting the company’s oncology and pharmaceuticals business and simplifying its operations model. In a statement to BioSpace Thursday, a Novartis spokesperson said the company "remain[s] extremely confident about the potential of [its] early-stage pipeline, which [it has] streamlined over the past five years to ensure focus on high-value assets with the potential to address exceptional unmet needs across a range of indications and therapeutic platforms." 

MorphoSys Chief of R&D to Retire 

Novartis wasn't the only company to announce a change in leadership. Germany's MorphoSys reported that Malte Peters, chief research and development officer, will retire at the end of the year. Tim Demuth, who currently serves as chief medical officer of Pieris Pharmaceuticals, will succeed Peters. Demuth joins MorphoSys on Oct. 1. Before Pieris, he spent time at Sandoz and Merck. 

Malte, who has been with the company since 2017, will step down from his operational responsibilities and assist with the transition. 

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